To investigate the south polar region of the Moon during Artemis missions, NASA is looking for industry proposals for a next-generation LTV (Lunar Terrain Vehicle). This LTV will enable humans to travel further and carry out more science than ever before.
The Artemis crew will use the LTV to explore and sample more of the lunar surface than they could do on foot. Instead of owning the rover, NASA will hire LTV as a service from the private sector. NASA can take advantage of private innovation and offer the best value to American taxpayers while meeting its goals for human spaceflight science and exploration by contracting services from business partners.
Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said, “We want to leverage industry’s knowledge and innovation, combined with NASA’s history of successfully operating rovers, to make the best possible surface rover for our astronaut crews and scientific researchers.”
The Lunar Terrain Vehicle will operate similarly to a hybrid of an unmanned Mars rover and an Apollo-style lunar rover. Similar to NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers, it will support both phases driven by astronauts and phases as an unmanned mobile science exploration platform. This will make it possible to conduct scientific even when there aren’t any crews on the lunar surface. The LTV will be used by the Artemis astronauts to travel around the lunar surface and transport research gear, increasing the lengths they can travel on each moonwalk.
NASA has specified requirements for businesses interested in creating and demonstrating the LTV under the Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services Request for Proposals, including a strategy that encourages businesses to create an innovative rover for use by NASA and other commercial customers for several years.
In order to move supplies and scientific payloads between crewed landing sites and enable more science returns, resource exploration, and lunar exploration, engineers will be able to control the LTV remotely. This will increase the amount of scientific study that can be conducted on the Moon during uncrewed operations, allow researchers to look into potential surface mission landing sites, and help them determine their aims and objectives for each location.
The Lunar Terrain Vehicle will need to have several systems to support both crewed and uncrewed operations to manage the peculiar environment near the lunar South Pole, which includes permanently darkened regions and prolonged periods without sunlight. Modern communication and navigation systems, semi-autonomous driving, enhanced power management, and environmental protection are some of the more crucial systems.
Companies are needed to offer end-to-end services as part of the bids, from development and delivery to the lunar surface to execution of operations. Each rover must be capable of accommodating two astronauts in spacesuits, a robotic arm, or other devices to aid in science exploration and the harsh conditions at the lunar South Pole. Before employing the LTV with humans, the corporation will be required to successfully test it in a lunar environment.
As of Artemis V in 2029, NASA plans to employ the LTV for crewed activities. The rover will be utilized for uncrewed and commercial tasks before the crew arrives once it landed on the lunar surface.
The deadline for proposals for the Lunar Terrain Vehicle services contract is July 10, 2023, and the contract will be awarded in November of that same year. Through a draft call for proposals and an earlier request for information, this request for proposals has considered industry feedback.
Through Artemis, NASA will send astronauts to the Moon for scientific research, and commercial gain, and to lay the groundwork for crewed missions to Mars, including the first woman and person of color.
The basis for NASA’s deep space exploration comprises its Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway lunar orbiting base, cutting-edge spacesuits and rovers, and human landing devices.